Healthy Hotels

2004-04-07 19.54.35Finding a scale in a hotel bathroom was always kind of startling. Its presence was, somehow, wrong. In fact, providing a scale as an amenity seemed like an act of hostility.   “Here, see how many pounds you’ve gained so far, missy” was the implication. Who wants to worry — well, get hard evidence — of that while on vacation?

The spread of wellness tourism has spawned a new market in the hotel industry. Westin has Heavenly Spa treatment rooms. At the MGM Grand Las Vegas, bathrooms in its Stay Well rooms are equipped with amenities like showers with vitamin C-infused water.

Back then, not many. Now, a lot more. With more of us living healthy lifestyles, what we eat is one of the many decisions we make with our well-being in mind. We’re thriving on this new mind-set and want to stay on that wellness wagon when we leave home, too.

Here are a few sources to help travelers in their search for hotels that are trying to provide a healthy stay:

Healing Hotels of the World: Includes about 70 properties, including a new category of urban hotels. Strict criteria emphasize holistic approaches to wellness, attentive staff, spectacular locations and a dedication to helping you feel your best. healinghotelsoftheworld.com.

Pravassa: Established in 2009, it specializes in wellness travel. While it mainly organizes and leads group trips, it has a list of accommodations it’s used and recommends. pravassa.com.

SpaFinder: Listings for any kind of healthy stay/experience you can imagine. spafinder.com.

Accreditation programs are scattered and mostly confined to a region or a few countries at most: The Healthy Hotels Program, a certification program in Australia/New Zealand, healthyhotels.com.au; Best Wellness Hotels Austria, established 1985, currently has 24 properties, all family run, in beautiful alpine locations, offering holistic spa programs and award-winning cuisine, wellnesshotel.com.

Wellness is the new green for travelers. They look for the word, and all it implies, when making vacation choices, and a new study by SRI International showed that these wellness travelers were especially worth wooing. Its 2013 Global Wellness Tourism Economy report, the first ever to quantify the market, found that it was worth nearly $440 billion — about 14 percent of the tourism total. The study also found that wellness travelers spend considerably more than the global average — 65 percent more for international trips and 150 percent for domestic trips.

No surprise, then, that hotels were at the top of the spa and wellness trends forecast recently released by SpaFinder Wellness 365. SpaFinder, the longstanding specialist in feel-your-best travel, calls the changes in lodging Healthy Hotels 2.0. Hoteliers will “move from healthy as a marketing differentiator to deeper, more multifaceted, inspired and comprehensive programming,” said Susie Ellis, its president.

Some brands have made multimillion dollar investments in renovations or new features. Others are starting small, adding healthy items to breakfast buffets or all-natural products to guest bathrooms.

Many chains are testing products or programs in just a few locations to gauge their popularity before going all in. So at this point, wellness is a work in progress. But it’s expanding as fast as a vacationer’s waistline — the old-style ones, I mean. You’ll undoubtedly find some aspect of the changing mind-set that will be a pleasant surprise. The scales? They’re so yesterday (fingers crossed).

Check out some of the latest ways hotels are doing well:

Well-designed

What better way to make your guests feel better than a room created with wellness as its guiding principle?

PURE rooms were introduced in 2009 as the first healthy-environment rooms — the hotels that installed them could assure guests of a room that was at least 98 percent allergen and germ free. Colorado-based PURE Solutions provided so-called purification technology, with a seven-step program that begins with a ruthless overall sanitizing assault, followed by applications of antiallergen coatings, regular deep cleaning for carpets and fabrics that gets even the best hidden grime and grit out, and even air purification systems fitted with holistic tea leaf filters.

Once regarded as a novelty, PURE rooms are now in more than 300 hotels nationwide, including upscale Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, Sheraton, Fairmont and Embassy Suites properties.

The demand has stepped up recently, thanks to several new green- hotel management companies and their boutique, eco-branded hotels. Hyatt made news late last year when it announced it would be adding 2,000 PURE rooms and suites across its 125 full-service properties worldwide. (To see where the rooms are, go to pureroom.com.)

The PURE rooms run about $20 to $40 more than regular rooms at the same hotel. That’s about the same differential to upgrade to a Stay Well room at the Las Vegas MGM Grand. The hotel introduced 42 of these redesigned rooms in October, and within months, demand was so high that MGM announced it would devote an entire floor — 171 rooms of the 5,000 room hotel — to Stay Wells. Designed by the architectural firm Delos, which specializes in wellness (yes, there’s a specialty), the rooms include 19 health-promoting features, including: “wake-up light therapy”; vitamin C-infused shower water and a photocatalytic coating on bathroom surfaces that breaks down bacteria.

While not as extensively overhauled as MGM’s, other hotel brands are offering specialty accommodations for the well-wishers. Omni Hotels, which provides a Get Fit Kit (see below) also offers Get Fit Rooms, equipped with a treadmill and weights. Tryp by Wyndham offers guests the option to upgrade to a fitness-friendly room: the hotel will equip a standard room with an exercise machine — a stationary bike, treadmill or elliptical, depending on the property — and provide workout clothing.

If Tryp is dipping its toe in to test the well waters, the InterContinental Hotels Group is plunging in from a high dive. IHG is adding a ninth brand to its roster, which currently includes Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo and others, with Even Hotels.

Wellness is part of Even Hotels’ DNA, according to its president, Adam Glickman. From the three-zone gyms — some of the largest in the industry — to all-natural shower products, live plants throughout, in-room yoga balls and mats, and fresh-squeezed juices at its quick-service counters, it will cater to travelers who maintain a healthy lifestyle and want a “complete wellness experience” without splurging on a high end destination spa or resort.

Even’s rooms include a luggage rack-cum-weight bench and a coat rack that doubles as a pull-up bar. Sheets are eucalyptus-infused. The room’s “fitness zone” has cork flooring, besides the personal exercise equipment. The hotels’ mobile app includes an exercise guide for in-room workouts. The first properties, in Rockville, Md., and Norwalk, Conn., are scheduled to open in June.

New amenities

The new guest room amenities are designed to make you sweat, strain and, most important, keep up your fitness lifestyle. Hotels — big chains as well as individual properties — are offering a wide variety of gear, services and information for their guests’ well-being. In-room workouts are also partly the result of feedback from female guests who are uncomfortable working out alone in gyms early in the morning or late at night.

Trump Hotel Collection has recently begun the Trump Wellness program at all its properties. The program has three parts: healthier menu options, healthy fast snacks and its Travel Fit in-room amenities. Guests can request yoga mats, stretch bands and light weights delivered to their rooms. The hotels also provide workout clothing and footwear.

Many chains are offering similar options. Some are even free: Kimpton now provides yoga mats in all rooms (to use with the free on-demand television yoga instruction) , offers a fleet of bicycles for guest use and roll-out service, of flavored water and fresh fruit in guest rooms. Omni’s Get Fit Kits, with weights, floor mat, stretch cords, a mini AM/FM headset and bottled water is also free for the asking. And if you tell the hotel in advance what activities you’re interested in, including yoga, spinning and Pilates, it will provide a list of neighborhood facilities that offer those activities.

Workout togs have also become a more widespread amenity. Hotels are partnering with well-known brands — Trump with Under Armour, Westin with New Balance for its Gear Lending program and Fairmont with Adidas in a service exclusive to its President’s Club members.

Serious sleep

Bed wars were the baby steps. Today, many hotels have taken up the cause of the zzzzzs-deprived. They’re finding new paths into the arms of Morpheus, from equipping rooms with blackout curtains and scientifically tested lighting to sleep-inducing massages and a panoply of pillows.

Conrad Hotels & Resorts, for example, has Global Pillow Menu of more than 75 models. No, not 75 varieties at every hotel — you’d spend half your sleep time just trying to pick your pillow. They’re selection reflects the hotel’s location: For example, in bone-icing Chicago, you can order a Cold and Flu Pillow, infused with eucalyptus, bergamot and sandalwood essential oils.

The sleep spin often reflects the hotel brand’s style. JW Marriott, the luxury brand of the Marriott group, has recast the nighttime turndown with chocolate to a Nightly Refresh service. It comes with a serenity-inducing snack, plus a vial of Revive Oil, specially created for the hotel by Aromatherapy Associates, which also helped create Marriott’s new bath amenities.

At the Hotel Vermont in Burlington, a bedtime menu of sleep-friendly amenities includes Lunaroma aromatherapy oil, flannel pajamas, teddy bears, bedtime stories and hot toddies.

Manhattan’s Hotel Benjamin is probably the most serious of the bunch when it comes to sleep. The hotel hired the sleep researcher Rebecca Robbins to design its Rest and Renew program. Robbins, co-author of “Sleep for Success,” is the hotel’s official sleep Consultant; the Benjamin offers a menu of different pillows (including the water-filled, the five-foot body cushion ,the anti-snore, etc). The Robbins sleep team will also provide a “work-down call” — the opposite of a wake-up call — reminding you to unplug and get to bed. If that’s impossible, spend $20 for the Power Nap, service, which includes a sleep mask, Aromatherapy Temple Treatment, a bottle of water, nap-time turndown and wake-up call.

Dining

Everyone’s rushing to add “certified organic,” and “locally sourced,” and heart-healthy and fat-, gluten- and whatever-else free. It all boils down to some healthier dine time.

Hotels including Trump, Omni and Hyatt have all added healthy options to their menus. Trump’s Nourish program includes its restaurant menu, mini-bars and room service. And to prevent the unhealthy fast grab and go, Trump offers a new Quick Bites in-room menu, with healthy choices guaranteed to be delivered in less than 15 minutes.

Kids menus are also being revamped at Trump, Westin and JW Marriott. And the juice craze is making its way into the hospitality world: Kimpton now offers three fresh juices on its lunch and dinner menus, using freshly picked local fruits and vegetables. The program will be in all its properties later this year.  By 2018, the goal is to have a Caribbean brand identity in the spa-and-wellness market that’s recognized worldwide.

The project will be supported by the Caribbean Development Bank’s Caribbean Aid for Trade program and Britain’s Department for International Development. The final cost hasn’t been tallied. Maybe it’s beside the point. If the Caribbean is able to get a piece of that $400 billion wellness tourism business, the region figures it’s money well spent.

By JILL SCHENSUL